Fix The Police By Licensing Them Like Any Other Provider Of Professional Services

You reform the police by holding them accountable to a state licensing board just like contractors, dentists & other professionals

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By David Grace (Amazon PageDavid Grace Website)

Competing Service Providers

From time to time we all buy services from professionals.

If we don’t like the way the dentist or plumber or accountant treats us, we fire them and look for someone better. If enough people do that, the bad plumbers or dentists either change their ways or go out of business or lose their licenses.

Elected Monopoly Service Providers

But there are services that are monopolies, e.g. public schools, courts and the like. Even there we have some recourse to bad performance. We can vote out the members of the school board or a particularly bad judge. Again, there is at least a partial check and balance we can use to force the service provider to do a better job.

The Police Are Non-Elected Monopoly Service Providers

And then there are the police.

We, the citizens, pay the police to provide services to us. As the customers, we have the right to expect them to provide their services in ways that are acceptable to the majority of citizens. But unlike plumbers or teachers or judges, we have little to no effective way to control the way the police provide their services.

There Is No Effective Citizen Control Over Police Services

Yes, we can elect a new mayor or new city council, and they may hire a new police chief, and that chief may revise some of the rules of police conduct, but even if some of the desires of the customers make it through all those layers of bureaucracy, without the ability to fire police officers who don’t follow those new rules, we are powerless.

There Is No Effective Government Control Over Police Services

Most police officers serve under a union contract that prohibits their being fired or severely disciplined without legal proof of misconduct, and then the firing can be and very often is overturned by the decision of an arbitrator whose continued employment depends on keeping the police union happy.

Police Services Are Controlled BY The Police FOR The Police

Unlike most other services we purchase, police services are largely provided under rules created by the police for the police without much, if any, concern or input on how we, the customers, want those services performed.

If the only plumbers you could hire were members of the plumbers union and the union could make all kinds of self-serving rules governing what a plumber could charge us, how much they could markup materials, what hours or days they could charge us double time, etc. undoubtedly, the plumbers would love those rules, but they wouldn’t be good for the customers, for you and me.

The police operate under all kinds of rules that are better for them, but worse for their customers, for us.

Shooting Rules Citizens Want The Police To Follow

I believe that most of the customers for police services think that the police should

  • Not be allowed to shoot someone because they think the person might have a gun, but rather should be required to actually see a gun being drawn before they can shoot
  • Be required to at least try to aim for a non-chest or head area if reasonably possible
  • Stop firing after a round or two to see if the person is still an immanent, serious threat
  • Only shoot someone as a last resort to avoid immanent injury to themself or others

I think most of us don’t want the police to be able to shoot first, shoot center mass, and shoot multiple times anytime they’re frightened of someone whose cell phone might be a gun or who has a long vegetable peeler, power drill or knife with a five inch blade.

The police shouldn’t be allowed to stand back and turn the guy who is ten feet away and holding a knife with a five-inch blade into Swiss cheese because it’s safer to shoot him than use their batons to make him drop the knife.

Shooting Rules The Police Want To Follow

Of course, the police don’t want to have any of those limitations.

The police want to be allowed to shoot first if they think someone might have a gun, even if they don’t.

The police want to be allowed to shoot first when they feel threatened, aim for the person’s chest, and keep shooting until the person is no longer moving because it’s safer for them to kill the guy than to just wound him.

The police want to be allowed to shoot first if the person has anything that might be a weapon, be it a pocket knife or a kitchen tool, or anything else that frightens them, even if it isn’t a real threat to them because it’s safer for them to just shoot the guy.

Some years ago a non-English-speaking woman in San Jose, CA was killed in her own kitchen when she “brandished” a ten inch long Asian vegetable peeler at two officers who had entered her home without a warrant.

An African-American woman with a power drill was shot dead by police in the Bay Area (they said it “looked like a gun”).

A few years ago, from ten feet away, three or four San Francisco police officers shot a guy nineteen times who refused to drop a knife with a five inch blade.

The Police Want Rules That Are Safer For Them & More Dangerous For Us

Yes, the rules that citizens want are not as safe for the officers as being able to shoot first, aim for center mass, and keep shooting until the person is unmoving on the ground, but those revised rules are much safer for us, the customers, who are paying for those police services.

Yes, it’s safer for the police if they can kill anyone whom they think might be a potential threat, but we’re the customers for their services. We get to decide how we want those services performed and we want them performed in ways that are safer for us.

We as customers don’t want our uniformed police to be executioners with a license to beat up or kill anyone who frightens them, defies them, or talks back to them.

The Stop & Question Rules The Police Want To Follow

Beyond the “shooting” rules, there are the “stop and question” rules.

How often have we seen videos of the police stopping someone, the person tries to walk away, the police grab his arm, he pulls it away, then they tackle him and start shouting, “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” crush him to the ground, and arrest him for resisting arrest, although he didn’t do anything they could have legally arrested him for in the first place?

Beyond asking for identification, should the police be allowed to stop and question anyone they want in a public place when the person has not committed a crime?

Sure, maybe it would deter some crimes if the police could stop any and every person they find on any public street at any time they wanted and ask:

  • Where are coming from?
  • Where are you going?
  • What are you doing here?
  • What’s the name of the person you’re going to see?
  • Where do you work?
  • Where have you been today?

but is that how we want the police to treat us in our own community?

Is that the America most of us want to live in? I don’t think it is.

The Stop & Question Rules We Want The Police To Follow

Don’t we, as the customers and citizens of a free country, have the right to walk down the street without being questioned by any police officer who thinks we might look suspicious?

And, of course, a Black or Brown person in a white neighborhood always automatically looks “suspicious” to a white officer.

Hell, a black twelve-year-old in a public swimming pool in a white neighborhood looks suspicious to most white adults.

“Send the police. There’s someone here who doesn’t belong,” they tell the 911 operator.

Just think about it for a moment.

Two armed officers stop you outside your local McDonalds or in a public park or on the street and demand that you tell them who you are, where you’re going, where you’re coming from, why you’re there and convince them that you’re not a criminal. And then they make you wait there without cuffs but not free to go for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes while they “check you out.”

Oh, and if you’re a young, healthy male, especially a Black or Brown male, they’re likely to make you lie face down in the dirt while they do cuff you because “You look like someone who might have committed a crime someplace nearby.”

Do you think you would be OK with that?

How about if that happened to you again and again and again?

How many times would you be willing to be stopped in a public place, interrogated by police officers, forced down onto the pavement, and handcuffed before you said:

“Hey, I’m not an enemy civilian in a conquered country. I’m not going to be treated like an Iraqi civilian being interrogated by American troops in U.S. occupied Basrah. This is America not Iraq. I’m an American citizen, and this crap has got to stop!”

Sure, maybe one out of twenty or fifty or a hundred times the police might actually get a “bad guy” in one of those “Get on the ground and explain yourself to me because you look suspicious” stops.

That’s not a good enough reason to justify the nineteen or forty-nine or ninety-nine other occasions when they’re treating an innocent person like an enemy civilian in his own country.

Not even close.

The People Paying The Bills Get To Set The Rules

So, as the customers who are paying for police services, shouldn’t we get to tell the police that they can’t question us in a public place beyond asking us for our identification?

Should we, as customers, be entitled to tell the police, “Here’s my ID. I’m not going to answer any of your questions. Now I’m walking away. Leave me alone” and actually be able to walk away unmolested?

Shouldn’t the police be required to first make a lawful arrest before someone can be charged with resisting arrest?

Shouldn’t the police be required to have grounds for a lawful arrest before they lay hands on a person?

From the point of view of the customer, the risks of making the police operate under rules that are good for us even if they are not as safe for them is part of the job.

If the police don’t want to stop shooting anyone they come across who might have a gun then they can give up their $80,000 — $90,000 per year salary, their full medical and dental plans, their three or four weeks paid vacation, their pension at 75% of their salary after twenty-five years, and all their other fringe benefits and find a safer job probably at a lot lower pay.

How Do We, The Customers, Change The Rules The Police Operate Under?

Police officers should be no different from lawyers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, cosmeticians, architects, electricians, accountants, contractors, bus drivers, and every other licensed professional.

We should require every police officer to meet minimum, state-set, education, psychological and training standards and to pass a test and be licensed by the State of California.

Require All Police Officers To Have A State-Issued License

No person should be able to act as a police officer anywhere in the State without a valid license.

The legislature should pass a comprehensive set of rules on shootings, interrogations and arrests that every officer must abide by.

Based on citizen complaints, just like doctors, lawyers, contractors and every other professional, the State should revoke or suspend that state-issued Police-Officer license for violations of those state rules of conduct.

That’s how we create a reasonable set of standardized rules of acceptable conduct for all police officers in the state.

Take All Police Misconduct Payments Out Of The Police Department’s Budget

All judgments and settlements for police misconduct should come out of the police department’s budget. Once the uniformed officers know that misconduct will take away the money that would have paid for overtime, will take away the money that will allow them to work at all, they might be more willing to control their conduct.

“Men, Johnson over there beat the hell out of a guy and the City has had to pay three million dollars to his family. Unfortunately, that exhausts our entire overtime budget and everyone will now be reduced to three-quarters time, thirty hours per week, for the next six months. If you’re unhappy about that take it up with Officer Johnson.”

That might make an impression on the force.

That’s how we control police-officer conduct.

That’s how we get rid of bad police officers.

— By David Grace (Amazon PageDavid Grace Website)

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David Grace

David Grace


Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.